tv Barack Obama on Fatherhood Leadership and Legacy AC360 Special CNN June 13, 2021 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT
>> he was latso in "toy story 3." he was 83 years old. thank you for joining me this evening, it's been great having you along. see you again next weekend. next, an "anderson cooper 360" special on barack obama, leadership, and legacy. welcome to this "ac 360" special. barack obama on fatherhood, leadership, and legacy. after leaving the white house, president obama mostly stayed out politics although last year did he campaign for president biden. the former president and former first lady have signed a deal with netflix. they've both started podcasts and he continues a program he launched from the white house called "my brother's keeper." its mission is to provide support for what it calls pathways of opportunity to young men of color. it's a deeply personal mission for president obama, who grew up hardly knowing his own father and who by his own account
didn't find his way until his late teens. he writes about that as well as how he balanced governing with being a husband and a dad in his recently published book "a promised land." we dropped in on the former president in chicago, in a high school where he was visiting with a group of young men who have been part of "my brother's keeper" to talk about their lives and the challenges they face. are you going back to community organizing? >> well, you know, probably i'm a little too gray-haired and old to be going door to door like i used to be, and plus secret service still follows me around so i'm pretty disruptive. but i am going back to what inspired me to get into public life. >> one of the things that inspires former president barack obama these days are meetings like this one. >> hey, people! >> hey, hey. >> it's called a b.a.m. circle. b.a.m. stands for becoming a
man. it's a program that started in chicago in 2001 to mentor and support boys and young men. >> how's everybody doing? >> the idea is to create a place for them to safely and honestly share their struggles and successes. issues at home, in school or on the streets. president obama first joined a b.a.m. circle back in 2013. that's when he met high school students james adams, lazarus daniels, and christian champagne. today in the same classroom they sat in eight years ago at the hyde park academy high school on the south side of chicago, mr. obama is catching up with them again. james and lazarus are now 26. christian is 25. he says talking to the president back then was life-changing. >> it was so crazy, that first period that i went to class, it was like, i'm going to meet the president on my lunch. like, that was the most inconceivable thing you could possibly think of. then my heart was, like, racing, when we were sitting down, he
walked in, i was just like, i'm forever grateful and it changed the trajectory of my life dramatically. [ applause ] >> that meeting had a big impact on president obama as well. one of the things that led him to launch an initiative called my brother's keeper which he announced at the white house in 2014. christian, lazarus, and james were there. james, when you went to d.c., that was your first time out of chicago, right? >> yeah. that was my first plane right. that was really my first time being out of my neighborhood. >> good afternoon. >> good afternoon. >> christian champagne was 18 years old at the time. >> he sat down with us and shared his story and to my surprise, he was just like me, growing up without a father. and sometimes not too concerned with school. [ laughter ] >> i said, okay, that's pretty nice that this is a black
president, grew up without a father, some of the guys grew up without a father. it's relatable. it's not just, oh, he had it made from jump and he's the president. i can relate to him. >> mr. obama has been candid about the struggles of his youth. he hopes sharing his story will inspire other kids to believe they too can accomplish great things. >> i made bad choices. i got high without always thinking about the harm that concluded do. >> you say you were a lackadaisical student, a passionate basketball player of limited talent, and an incessant, dedicated partier. no eagle scouts or interning in the local congressman's office. >> i was to be careful not to overstate. i was not going around beating kids up. >> i get it. >> and, you know, setting things on fire.
but i understood what it meant to not have a father in the house. i understood what it meant to be in an environment in which you were an outsider. in a way, one difference between these young men was, there weren't a lot of black people generally at the time. and -- >> you also were growing up, before that, in indonesia as an outsider. >> i'm also an outsider in indonesia. there was mixed in with the teenage hormones and just the usual stuff that teens go through, that sense of, what's my place, and how do i raise myself to be a man, and what does that entail, what responsibilities are there, what obligations do i have. and, you know, what i try to record in the book is the sense in which in part the values that
my mother and grandparents had instilled in me, even if i wasn't always following them when i was a teenager, led me to the realization around 20, a little later than some of these guys, that to be a full-grown man meant not acting out, not being cynical, but taking on some responsibilities. not just for yourself but also for the world around you. >> helping boys and young men become full grown men is what b.a.m. is all about. the obama foundation supports b.a.m. programs in several cities through the my brother's keeper alliance. >> do you think you would have benefitted from having this as a teenager? >> i'm sure i could have. when we came here, three of the guys here, you know, were still in school at the time. we had a chance to have a
conversation. part of what he shared with them was -- and i think this spiced some of the guys, was my life wasn't that different from yours, i wasn't that different from you, the main difference was i was growing up in a gentler environment. >> in hawaii. >> in hawaii. the violence and drugs and some of the issues that the guys were dealing with day to day were different. but the mistakes i made, the struggles i was going through, were similar. and i think that it would have been useful for me at that time to have just a circle in which you can talk. and i think that one of the things we all learned from the pandemic was that human connection matters, that we're not all by ourselves, and we don't accomplish most of the things we accomplish by
ourselves. it requires a community. and i think particularly for boys and young men of color, many of whom grow up without fathers, but many of whom also live in relative isolation where the communities, because of safety issues, or economic issues, folks don't have as many resources around them, it becomes that much more critical to be able to have some place where you can come and just say, listen, i'm struggling with this, or, you know, i'm confused about that, or, you know -- these are the kinds of precious i'm dealing with, and have somebody who either is their peer or somebody older who can say, yeah, man, that's something that i went through also, he'll struggling with this too, this is something i'm confused about, and then being able to talk it through. >> president obama says he found his purpose and ambition in life
through community service, and eventually a career in politics. becoming a father to daughters sasha and malia gave him the chance to be the kind of father he never had. james and lazarus are now fathers as well. >> we were talking before, the three of you guys were in the program, you were in the school, now you guys have moved on. two of you are now fathers. >> yes, sir. >> and both of you have daughters. anderson here, he's a new father. how old is wyatt now? >> just turned 1. >> just turned 1. so he's still in diaper changing mode. other than changing diapers, how has that changed your perspective, and how do you think about it? because look, me being president, that's cool, but it's not life-changing in the same way being parent is.
>> before having a daughter, i was able to make stupid decisions. now that i have a daughter, i have to think about her, i have to think about her mother, her sister, because now i'm the man of the house. and everything that i do is pretty much revolved around her. so i want to be that father that's always there. i want to be the one that you come home from school to, that brightens up your day. anything that you need, you can always come to me. i didn't have that growing up. i didn't have a father. at one point in time i didn't see my father for ten years. so i want to be there for her, for everything. >> fantastic. how about you? >> being a father, it's amazing to me. my baby girl got a great big smile, full of energy, full of life, full of joy. i was fortunate to have my father and mother together.
one thing b.a.m. helped me out with was being able to speak on things, because i wasn't able to talk to my father, because he was strictly business. >> he was old school. >> old school all the way. i didn't understand it. i just wanted to talk to him, let him know, i need to talk to you. i saw things in my dad that i didn't even know i saw. i was 7 when a grown man shot at me. there's so much that you see daily, so much that you see daily, nonstop, that you as a man are not supposed to feel. so with my daughter and my future children, i'm going to have a lot of children, i'm going to make sure the money is right to take of all of that. >> you better also check with mama. she has something to do with it.
>> sure. i'm going to definitely implement communication with my daughter, being able to open up and tell me how she feels. >> b.a.m. councilors often act not only as mentors but as father figures to the men in the group. they check in on their grades, their health, safe shaft. christian champagne says president obama has checked in with him over the years since they met more than his own father has. >> what's going on, you all right? staying strong like you're supposed to? >> i know excellence is possible and i need to strive for that. although sports are important to me, i focus on my gpa and i will get it back to 3.8. [ applause ] >> what's your life been like since that meeting? you went to morehouse. >> i went to moorehouse for like a semester and realized i couldn't pay for it, so i had to come back home and start over,
go to western, work through that, got a couple of internships, landed a job, that's a career job now. but before, i wasn't even thinking about going to college, to be honest, because i was always worried, could i pay for it, would i be accepted? i think after the first visit you made here, i worked a little harder on my grades. i stopped playing around, i was like, maybe -- maybe i could do something else. maybe i could go to college. >> when you sit in a circle like that, the obstacles these kids are facing and able to overcome is really extraordinary. >> yeah, the first time i sat down with these guys, the most important thing for me to communicate at that time, and i was the president of the united states, was, you guys in many
ways are ahead of me, of where i was at your age. i just had certain advantages you guys don't. i could make a mistake and land on my feet. >> but even -- christian is 25, a single mom, he had five or six brothers and sisters, family of six, he got into moorehouse, had to drop out because of money, went to another school, had to drop out because he got ill, now he's working, hoping to go back to school. it's not a question of not working hard enough or being motivated enough. >> and that is where sort of for me, my personal journey intersected with i think this broader question of, how are we setting up as a society so young men like that can succeed or not succeed. that's what led me to the south side of chicago, that's what led
me to be a community organizer, was that sense that, look, when i walk down the street of the south side of chicago, i see young people, and they look and remind me of me, or michelle. and a combination of circumstance allowed us to succeed. but these kids are just as talented, they're just as smart. they could achieve just as much, if we've got an education system, a social safety net, job opportunities, that expose them and give them a chance. and, you know, i think that the single most important thing i learned as an organizer here in chicago was, you know, the line between success or failure in this society so often is dictated not by anybody's
inherent merits. it has to do with the circumstances in which they're in. that doesn't mean they don't have individual responsibility. i think all these young men, you heard them, they recognize, no, i've got to work hard, i've got to do my part. but it also means we as a society continue to fail them. >> and how stacked the deck is against so many people in our society before they're even born. >> yes. >> i heard in a speech you gave a figure that i hadn't heard before, if you grow up in a low income family, you hear a third of the words you hear if you're in a well-off family. >> and you're significantly behind. as you're learning as a parent, kids are amazingly resilient. and they can catch up. but it also means that we have to make investments to ensure that they catch up. >> the other thing, i mean, i leave that room thinking, how
many other kids are there who aren't even in that? >> one of the things we liked about this program, becoming a man, was they didn't focus on the superstars, right? that they deliberately target not the kids who are either in the most trouble or are most successful in defying the odds. but the kids who are right there, sort of in the middle, that can tip in either direction, that if they get an encouraging adult, if they are able to, as lazarus was expressing there, if they can find words to tell their story and express themselves and talk out what they're feeling, they can succeed. and that's part of what i think made this conversation wonderful, is, these kids aren't like sort of one in a million.
this is -- what you just heard was young black men all across this country. that's who they are. it's not the stereotypes. >> these are not prodigies or savants. >> no. >> but they're bridmming with potential. >> so if we have a society that is afraid of them, we need to listen and hear them, because they're no different than you or i in so many ways, except for the opportunities that they have or don't have. >> mr. obama will be writing another book about his final years in the white house and what happened after. but in "a promised land," the president writes about the beginnings of the changes he witnessed firsthand. the changes in the republican party, when john mccain selected sarah palin to be his running
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it's been more than four years since the obamas left the white house, a moment the former president describes as bittersweet in his book. >> hello, everybody. >> partly because they were leaving and partly because of what he thought might happen to the country. you write about sarah palin, her brief ascendancy. >> right. >> you talk about dark spirits that had long been lurking at the edges of the republican party coming center stage. did you ever think it would get
this dark? >> no. i thought that there were enough guardrails institutionally that even after trump was elected, that you would have the so-called republican establishment who would say, okay, it's a problem if the white house isn't -- doesn't seem to be concerned about russian meddling. or it's a problem if we have a president who is saying that neo-nazis marching in charlottesville, there are good people on both sides, that that's a little bit beyond the pale. and the degree to which we did not see that republican establishment say, hold on, time out, that's not acceptable, that's not who we are, but
rather be cowed into accepting it, and then finally culminating in january 6th, where what originally was, oh, don't worry, this isn't going anywhere, we're just letting trump and others vent, and then suddenly you now have large portions of an elected congress going along with the falsehood that there were problems with the election. >> and the leadership of the gop briefly, you know, for one night, when they still had this sort of sense of fear in them, going against the president. >> and then, poof, suddenly everybody was back in line. now, what that -- the reason for that is because the base believed it. and the base believed it because this had been told to them not just by the president but by the media that they watch, and nobody stood up and said stop,
this is enough, this is not true. i won't say nobody. let me correct it. there were some very brave people who did their jobs like the secretary of state in georgia who was then viciously attacked for it. and all those congressmen looked around and said, you know what, i'll lose my job, i'll get voted out of office. another way of saying this is, i didn't expect that there would be so few people who would say, well, i don't mind losing my office, because this is too important. america's too important. >> some things are more important. >> our democracy is too important. we didn't see that. now, you know, i'm still the hope and change guy, and so my hope is that the tides will turn. but that does require each of us to understand that this
experiment in democracy is not self-executing. it doesn't happen just automatically. it happens because each successive generation says these values, these truths we hold self-evident, this is important, we're going to invest in it and sacrifice for it and we'll stand up for it even when it's not politically convenient. >> one of the things you write, we need to explain to each other who we are and where we are going. as somebody who has dedicated myself to storytelling, that really resonates with me. i wonder, are we as a country still willing to listen to each other's stories? >> this is the biggest challenge we have, s is that we don't hav the kinds of shared stories that we used to. there has always been a division along the lines of race, right? we have 400 years of whites and
blacks not being able to have shared experiences because of slavery and segregation and so forth. but even within let's say the white community, right, the stories of kids who are growing up in manhattan and the stories of kids who are growing up in abilene, texas, and the stories of a kid who is growing up in montana, those stories no longer meet, partly because of the siloing of the media, the internet, entertainment. we occupy different worlds. and it becomes that much more difficult for us to hear each other, see each other. the thing i learned first as an organizer and then as an elected official, as a politician, was when you start hearing people's stories, you always find a thread of your own story in somebody else.
and the minute that recognition happens, that becomes the basis for a community. >> but it does seem like something has changed so that it's become so extreme that we're not even allowing ourselves to get into a position where we can see that commonality. i've heard in the past you talk about when you were starting out in politics, you would go down to southern illinois, to very conservative districts. >> they would give me a hearing. and i think that's changed. part of it is the nationalization of media, the nationalization of politics. the fact is that you used to have a bunch of local newspapers, local tv stations. people weren't having these highly ideological debates but they are kind of more focused on what's happening day to day. and part of it is also the structure of our economy and our communities. look, it used to be that a high
school, the average high school in america, the average public high school, you would have the banker's kid and the janitor's kid in the same school and they would interact. their parents would be both going to the same football game and would have to know each other. and if it turned out there was a talented kid of a janitor who also happened to be on the football team, the bank president might say, hey, why don't you come work at the bank here, because he knew that person. now we have more economic stratification and segregation. you combine that with racial stratification and the siloing of the media, so you don't have just walter cronkite delivering the news but you have a thousand different venues, all that has contributed to that sense that we don't have anything in common. and so, so much of our work is going to have to involve not just policy, but it's also how
do we create institutions and occasions in which we can come together and have a conversation. >> in "promised land" you write, "our democracy seems to be teetering on the brink of a crisis." since you wrote that, there has been the attack on the capitol, we have the big lie being pushed continuously not only by the former president but by republicans in congress. are we still just teetering on the brink or are we in crisis? >> well, i think we have to worry when one of our major political parties is willing to embrace a way of thinking about our democracy that would be unrecognizable and unacceptable even five years ago or a decade ago. when you look at some of the laws that are being passed at
the state legislative level, where legislators are basically saying, we're going to take away the certification and election processes from civil servants, secretaries the state, people who are just counting ballots, and we're going to put it in the hands of partisan legislatures who may or may not decide that a state's electoral votes should go to one person or another, and when that's all done against the backdrop of large numbers of republicans having been convinced, wrongly, that there was something fishy about the last election, we've got a problem. and, you know, this is part of the reason why i think the conversation around voting rights at a national level is important. this is why i think conversations about some of the institutional and structural
barriers to our democracy working better, the elimination of the filibuster or the end to partisan gerrymandering, is important. but this is why it is also important for us to figure out how do we start once again being able to tell a common story about where this country goes. and that is not just the job of politicians, although i think elected officials have an important role. that's where the media is going to have to play an important role. that is where companies have to play an important role. you know, all of us as citizens have to recognize that the path towards an un-democratic america is not going to happen in just one bang. it happens in a series of steps. when you look at what's happened in places like hungary and poland, that obviously did not have the same traditions,
democratic transitions that we do, they weren't as deeply rooted, and yet as recently as ten years ago, were functioning democracies, and now essentially have become authoritarian. >> a democracy doesn't necessarily die in a military coup. it dies at the ballot box. >> that's exactly right, and vladimir putin gets elected by a majority of russian voters. none of us would claim that's the kind of democracy we want. >> you wrote about the importance of getting exposed to other people's truths. and that is how attitudes change. what happens when the only truth that people are willing to expose themselves to is their own? >> this is part of the challenge. it's part of the challenge with social media. i think there's been a lot of conversation about how we are able now to just filter out anything that contradicts our
own biases, prejudices, and predispositions. it's not symmetrical, i have to say this. the truth is that on what at least the right would consider liberal media like cnn, you guys will still take democrats to task for things. i think democrats, lord knows when i was president, i was getting a lot of incoming from my own base. and so it's not symmetrical. but what is true is for all of us, there is a great danger that we just shut out anything that contradicts our own sense of righteousness in these big debates. >> not only that, but then we ot otherize -- >> we demonize the other side. that is going to require steady effort. it probably is not going to be
done at the federal level. it's probably going to involve communities finding ways to rebuild that sense of neighborliness, working together, conversations. you know, one of the things that, having been out of office for a while, i've gone back to thinking about, is how can we do more bottom-up work to rebuild communities, to rebuild local media, to rebuild local conversations, because that's where i think there's still the most hope. >> disperse the area immediately! >> it was during president obama's eight years in the white house that the american public began learning and saying the names trayvon martin, eric garner, and michael brown.
young black men killed by police or in trayvon martin's case, by a neighborhood watch volunteer when martin was 17 years old. >> when trayvon martin was first shot, i said this could have been my son. another way of saying that is trayvon martin could have been me 35 years ago. >> president obama was both praised and criticized for that statement, one of several reminders for the first black american president that how and when he discussed race was something he and his advisers had to think carefully about. in his book he writes that early on in his presidential campaign, his advisers warned him about being boxed in as, quote, the black candidate. looking back, as president, did you tell the story of race in america enough, do you think? >> well, look, i tried.
i think i told a lot of stories. you take a look at the speeches i gave in selma, and the speech i gave during the campaign about reverent wright and that whole episode. each and every time i tried to describe why it is that we are still not fully reconciled with our history. but the fact is that it is a hard thing to hear. it's hard for the majority in this country, white americans, to recognize that, look, you can be proud of this country and its traditions and our forefathers, and yet it is also true that this terrible stuff happened, and that, you know, the vestiges
of that linger and continue. and the truth is, is that when i tried to tell that story, oftentimes my political opponents would deliberately not only block out that story, but try to exploit it for their own political gain. i tell the story in the book about the situation where skip gates, a harvard professor who is trying to get into his own house, gets arrested. and i'm asked about it. i don't know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that. but i think it's fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry. number two, that the cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home. and not only did that cause a
firestorm, as you will recall, you were already in the press at that time, but subsequent polling showed that my support among white voters dropped more precipitously after that -- that should have been a minor, trivial incident, than anything else during my presidency. >> that's extraordinary. >> and it gives a sense of the degree to which these things are still -- you know, they're deep in us. and sometimes unconscious. but i also think that there are certain right wing media venues, for example, that monetize and capitalize on stoking the fear and resentment of a white population that is witnessing a changing america and seeing demographic changes, and do
everything they can to give people a sense that their way of life is threatened and that people are trying to take advantage of them. and we're seeing it right now, right? where you would think, with all the public policy debates that are taking place right now, that, you know, the republican party would be engaged in a significant debate about how are we going to deal with the economy, what are we going to do about climate change, what are we going to about -- lo and behold, the single most important issue to them apparently right now is critical race theory. who knew that that was the threat to our republic? but those debates are powerful because they get at what story do we tell about ourselves. >> are you prepared to take the oath, senator? >> i am. >> the senator who campaigned on hope and change sees the continued personal for that change in the next generation,
which includes his own daughters. they came to the white house as children. but sasha obama is 19 years old now and a student at the university of michigan. malia is 22 and is at harvard. while his daughters still keep a low public profile, mr. obama says they took part in the black lives matter protests after george floyd was killed in minneapolis. i'm wondering, just as a parent, if you were worried about them doing so, and as somebody who has had daughters who were taking part in that, who do you make of those who are now saying the black lives matter prot protesters, equating them with the people who attacked the capitol? >> my daughters are so much wiser, more sophisticated, and gifted than i was at their age, that, you know, i always worry about their physical safety, that's just the nature of fatherhood.
you will discover, when wyatt stops just being immobilized in your house and can start wandering around -- >> i'm not going to allow that. >> driving cars, flying on planes, you're terrified all the time. but in terms of them having a good sense of what's right and wrong and their part and role to play in making the country better, i don't worry about that. they have both a clear sense of -- that i see in this generation, that what you and i might have tolerated as, yeah, that's sort of how things are, their attitude is, why? let's change it. and that's among not just my daughters but it's among their white friends, right? there is this sense of, well, of course it's not acceptable for a criminal justice system to be tainted by racism.
of course you can't discriminate against somebody because of their sexual orientation, right? there are things they take for granted that i want them to take for granted. but what i find interesting is they're also starting to be very strategic about how to engage the system and change it. they're not just interested in making noise. they're interested in what works. and at least in conversations with my daughter, i think that a lot of the dangers of cancel culture and, you know, we're just going to be condemning people all the time, at least among my daughters, they'll acknowledge that sometimes among their peer group or in college campuses, you'll see folks going overboard. but they have a pretty good sense of, look, we don't want -- we don't expect everybody to be perfect, we don't expect everybody to be politically correct all the time. but we are going to call out
institutions or individuals if they are being cruel, if they are, you know, discriminating against people. we do want to raise awareness. a great source of my optimism, you know, when people talk about what kind of -- how do i think about my legacy, part of it is, the kids who were raised during the eight years that i was president, there are a bunch of basic assumptions they make about what the country can and should be that i think are still sticking. they still believe it. and they're willing to work for it. >> no justice, no peace! >> while the black lives matter movement has brought national attention to the issue of police reform, these young men in the b.a.m. program say they feel a dual threat every time they go outside. there's fear and distrust of the police and fear of gun violence on the streets. >> here in chicago, this year,
let's face it, has been an increase in violence. when we met last time, obviously on the south side, west side of chicago, some of the surrounding suburbs, there had been gun violence for a while, gang activity for a while. we've seen an uptick in it. and then we've also had to process the fact that the relationship between the police and the community is not what we want it to be. and so often, young black men, you know, experience police not as a positive force to protect but as somebody who is going to see you as a suspect or somebody to be feared. how has that played out for you guys, both while you're still in school but also now that you're working? >> police in chicago, for a
while i was driving a lyft while i was still in college, i would come home weekends, drive lyft. and i was getting pulled over like crazy, almost every night i was getting pulled over. but the first question they asked -- i asked, how are you doing, officer, how is it going? their first question is, any drugs or weapons in the car? granted, i'm a big black guy. the first thing they see, suspicious. but as i was telling the guys, i've got to make it home to my family. i can't be another case where some officer has his knee on my neck, choking me out. so my biggest thing is making it back home, regardless. anything that's going on outside, you know, i love my family, love my baby more. that's a feeling you're going to feel, mr. cooper. get home, even when your eyes
are about to pop out, get home to your baby and that joy and that feeling that you get from that baby, it's amazing. it gives you a little spark of energy. >> i just love that baby smell, i want to bury my face in it. >> not before a diaper change. >> that's most important to me, to make it home regardless of the police, they don't know me from a can of paint. >> two of the participants in this b.a.m. circle are still in their teens. one is 14. he wants to become a visual artist when he grows up. kinsly is 15 and dreams of being an actor or dancer. they both say they feel like they risk their lives every time they leave home. >> when you think about being in school, is this something you have to worry about, not necessarily police, just shootings, violence, you know, generally is that something that you think about? or is it something that is not
your primary distraction? >> me personally, i love going outside. i love interactions with people. and -- but it's like, in the neighborhood i live in, it's very hard to do that. every night it's like, before i go to bed, is it a gunshot i'm hearing, is it fireworks? also i love to wear -- i like wearing hoodies. so when i walk down the street, is somebody going to come and target me because i'm wearing a hoodie, do they think i'm up to no good? that's how i see it. >> yes, i walk past a police car, they might, you know, mistake me for doing something wrong or going somewhere that i have no business going. >> james, you worried about this a lot when you were in high school. what about now? >> so yeah, high school, i actually used to have to map out my bus route and wear a bulletproof vest. i would wear the vest to school, once i get here, i hand the vest
over to principal ross and after school, put the vest back on, navigate through all the gang-infested areas back home to where i feel safe. >> mm-hmm. what have you been saying? are you guys, are you still -- >> i'm no longer in englewood, i know it's not a big difference, but now i don't go to certain gas stations, i don't go to certain restaurants. i also bought another vest. so it's still the same thing. it's not over with just because i'm out of school. >> right. and obviously as a father, it makes but as far as shootings, like, the vest may protect me from that. but as far as police, what's going to protect me from that?
what's going to stop me from going to jail even if i didn't do anything. >> so you feel like you're getting it from both sides. >> you have the street gangs and you have the chicago police. >> growing up, i mean, being my age now, just become so desensitized to it, just routine overpolicing, gangs, just try to stay out the way mostly. i don't drive because i get anxiety, bro. it's just like i don't -- i don't want to be another hashtag essentially. like i want to live my life out until i'm at least 80 or something, you know. >> not unreasonable. >> while christian says he wants to live until he's 80 years old, james never thought he would make it to 26 because of all the violence in the neighborhood where he grew up. all three young men have had their struggles over the years
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across the street from the hyde park academy on the south side of chicago where we met with the former president is jackson park. this is the future site for the obama presidential center, which will break ground later this year. there is hope of the sprawling campus will revitalize this neighborhood where michelle obama was raised and where barack obama started his career. >> right across the street, you know, we're going to be building the presidential center. a lot of our focus will be programming for the young people in the community, boys and girls, young men and young women. and given that you guys have all gone through this program, bam, you are in the middle of going
through it. you have seen some things. you have a sense of what's going on in the neighborhoods. how do you think we could be most helpful to you guys? what are the things you think would be most helpful in young people being able to navigate their own lives, be successful in school, having a positive future, be confident that they can get to 80? give me some sense of what are some gaps we could feel or some things that are working that we need to build back up? >> for me, i feel like having someone to communicate with or to run to without having to worry about getting injured or shot. >> so just having a safe space where you can have conversations, interact with peers. >> yeah. >> talk things out, maybe learn from people who are a little bit older than you, have different experiences, get exposed to different things? >> yes. >> i believe it should be more
opportunities, like more internships, more variety of things to do in our communities. >> to trail on to that, i do agree. i feel like there should be more sponsorships and more things within the schools, such as like an after school program to keep the kids from off the streets or things they want to do like not everybody wants to fight all the time. like people want to express themselves within art. >> like christian said, he got motivated when he saw you. other neighborhoods, they see people like that all the time, successful people all the time. we need people to come into the community, be like art. we need successful people that does visual arts in front of him. you know what i'm saying? things like that. like it's people that's my age that never tied a tie in their
life. but you go into more gifted communities, they learn how to tie a tie. they know what the difference of forks are for food and salad fork, you know, the soup spoon. >> i didn't learn that until i got to the white house. >> right. that's where i learned it, visiting with you. we ate sandwiches. >> i give you the tip. you do this and that's the bread and that's the drink. the b and the d. that's how i remembered so i wasn't eating somebody else's bread and drinking somebody else's drink. >> so just being able to see things positive in front of them, not just the basketball court where they could come here, not just a boxing ring. they could come in and let some anger off and do some push-ups. it's not everything that, you know -- he's not even into that. so we got to put in front of them people that are successful in their field. >> that's a great idea.
thank you. >> hearing each other's stories, seeing each other as we are may not be a simple thing, but for president obama, it is a crucial step to bring this country back from the brink. >> i'm proud of you guys. great to see you, man. >> proud of you. all right. i like what you're saying. i think it's right. good luck, man. good to see you again. >> thank you. if we are meeting face to face and hearing each other's stories, we can bridge our divides. the question now becomes how do we create those venues, those meeting places for people to do that because right now we don't have them. and we're seeing the consequences of that .
you may have noticed lately that the gop is working overtime to make the lives of trans people than their lives already are. the gop wants to kick trans people out of bathrooms, sports, the military, doctor's offices. >> anti-transgender health care. >> and trans women especially are under threat at all times. >> was shot and killed saturday morning. >> and then those of us who know all that's awful to call trans people brave for putting up with it. trans people don't want to have to be brave. they just want to be. this week we are talking to black trans women in dallas, texas about trying to just be.